Greg Dyke on Broadcasting

Only six years after the "gentlemen" who run cricket promised the Government that at least half England's Test matches would stay on terrestrial television if cricket was removed from the Government's list of protected sporting events, they've sold the lot to BSkyB.

Only six years after the "gentlemen" who run cricket promised the Government that at least half England's Test matches would stay on terrestrial television if cricket was removed from the Government's list of protected sporting events, they've sold the lot to BSkyB.

Of course, the England and Wales Cricket Board faced a classic dilemma when making the decision. The up side of going with BSkyB was that it would rake in an extra £20m a year for cricket. The down side was that not only did it mean going back on what the Board had promised the Government, it also almost certainly meant a further decline in interest in cricket in the UK.

In the end, money talked, but no one should underestimate the impact the decision is likely to have. It will mean that more than half of the country's homes will, for the first time, not be able to receive live Test cricket. But it's worse than that; it's also likely to mean that fewer people will watch cricket overall - even in the homes that can receive BSkyB.

You can see the likely impact the move will have on cricket by looking at the viewing figures for other sports. Some years back, the English Rugby Football Union decided to sell all its internationals at Twickenham to BSkyB while the rest of the home countries sold their matches to the BBC. This meant that, one year, the England vs Wales rugby international was shown on BSkyB, while the next year, when it was played at Cardiff, it was on BBC1.

The audience figures tell all. When the match was on Sky the audience was a few hundred thousand; when it was on the BBC it was 20 times larger at seven million.

And rugby isn't an isolated case. The golf industry certainly blames the lack of new people taking up the game in recent years on the fact that most golf tournaments are now broadcast on one of the Sky Sports channels and not on terrestrial television. What this has meant is that while the ardent golf fans still watch, not many others do.

The truth is that when most sports events are broadcast on terrestrial television they become just that - events. That is just not the case when they are on BSkyB, even though the actual coverage is as good and often better than on the terrestrial channels. What many sports organisations have learnt over the years is that, without terrestrial television coverage, interest in the sport declines - soccer aside.

But while this latest deal might not turn out to be a good one for the long-term future of cricket, it certainly is a coup for James Murdoch and BSkyB. Back when the fledgling Sky first started, one of its early boosts in subscriber numbers came when it bought the exclusive rights to the cricket World Cup. With the growth in subscriber numbers now slowing and people turning in vast numbers to Freeview for multi-channel digital television, BSkyB needed something new to sell. Faced with either paying for BSkyB or not seeing live cricket at all, some cricket lovers are bound to sign up.

However, the deal raises the whole question of "listed events" legislation all over again. The Test matches were originally on the list of sporting events that successive governments said must be shown on terrestrial television, along with the Olympics, the soccer World Cup finals, Wimbledon and others.

But back in 1998, after a long campaign by the cricket authorities, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, agreed that the Test matches should not, any longer, be included in the list. He did this having had assurances from the Cricket Board that they would not sell more than half of the Test matches to BSkyB. Six years later, they have sold the lot.

What this is almost certain to mean is that the fledgling campaign by BSkyB and Fifa to change the listed events rules for the 2010 football World Cup, so that some of the games can be shown exclusively on BSkyB, is probably dead in the water. Which Government minister will trust a sporting body now?

Christmas is not business as usual

One of the great myths of television is that every year ITV and the BBC battle it out to win the Christmas ratings war. It's simply not true. In fact, for many years ITV has been quite happy to let the BBC win for the very simple reason that there's very little advertising revenue available over the immediate Christmas period.

Mind you, there's losing and losing. Back in the early Nineties when I was chief executive at London Weekend Television, I was responsible for the worst Christmas Day schedule ever on ITV. The year was 1993, and the 1990 Broadcasting Act passed by the Tory government had just come into effect. For the first time, ITV was being told to behave like a proper business, so we did just that. We spent virtually no money on the Christmas Day schedule. Instead, we played our most popular programmes in the run-up to Christmas or in the New Year when we could take some real money.

So for two hours in peak time on Christmas night, we played a movie about baseball called Field of Dreams. And at 10pm we ran another movie called Dead on Arrival - a particularly appropriate title.

Just as we expected, ITV was murdered in the ratings: we lost five to one. What we hadn't expected was the reaction of the new regulator, the Independent Television Commission. They savaged us because they said we were failing the public. No one really wants ITV to behave like a proper business - especially not the regulator.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all